ADL to Honor Washington University Seniors
with 2010 Torch of Liberty Award
Monday, May 10, St. Louis -- The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will present its prestigious Torch of Liberty Award to the entire 2010 Graduating Class of Washington University in St. Louis. The class is being honored for its exemplary response following the biased targeting of six African-American classmates during the Senior Class visit to Chicago last fall.
ADL established the Torch of Liberty Award to celebrate those who, by word and deed, seek to preserve liberty, freedom, equality and democracy. It recognizes those in today's world who demonstrate significant leadership and courage in the face of bias and bigotry. The award will be presented during the Senior Class dinner at America’s Center on Monday, May 17th.
In the course of the class trip last October, six black students were racially profiled for wearing baggy pants and denied entry to Chicago-based Mother’s Bar. Their fellow students’ response was immediate and powerful. First, white students exchanged clothing with the black students, and immediately were permitted entry to the bar.
The class and its Leadership Council followed up with public protest, national and international media outreach, which galvanized the Washington University campus. They also filed a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission. A formal settlement between the bar and the students included a public apology to the students from Mother’s Bar, and implementation of ADL anti-bias training programs for Mother’s staff.
“The action of the Washington University Senior Class and its Leadership Council in confronting racism and discrimination demonstrate that our community’s strong respect for Washington University students is well-deserved,” noted David Grebler, ADL’s board chair for the Missouri-Southern Illinois region. “We are confident they will continue to demonstrate courageous leadership to improve their communities wherever life takes them.”
The Torch of Liberty presentation will include a special Call to Action to harness the allies who comprise the nearly 1200 students of the Senior Class. ADL will work with the Seniors and develop a web site to allow reporting of similar incidents from around the country, develop race neutral policies that encourage bars, restaurants and other public accommodations not to use baggy pants and other dress codes as excuses for excluding black customers, and link graduating Seniors -- who will be moving all over the country -- with resources to respond if they encounter such incidents again.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services the counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry. The St. Louis Regional office covers Eastern Kansas, Missouri and Southern Illinois.
ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute has provided anti-bias education and diversity training programs that explore the value of diversity, improve intergroup relations and combat racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of prejudice and bigotry. The Institute has been active in the region since 1987.